September 20, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Xbox tries to get its 'Halo' back

With next week's release of Halo 3, gamers will get their chance to see just what happens to Master Chief at the end of the trilogy.

For Microsoft, it's a golden opportunity to get some positive mojo for the Xbox 360 after a summer's worth of headlines centered around quality problems that forced the company to extend the console's warranty and take a $1 billion charge.

"This is the kind of attention that we'd prefer," said Shane Kim, general manager for Microsoft's game studios.

There is little doubt the game, which goes on sale at midnight on Tuesday, will be a blockbuster release. Brokerage Wedbush Morgan predicts that Microsoft could sell 3 million copies in the product's first 12 days. The 2004 release of Halo 2 brought in $125 million in its first day, a then-record, Kim said. That's a far cry from the kind of revenue that Windows or Office generates in a quarter, but it's still some serious cash.

"Halo is one of those 'sure thing' releases for the industry," said Anita Frazier, a video game analyst at NPD Group. Microsoft has already sold out of an ultra high-end "legendary edition" that includes a Spartan helmet.

But the real question is what the broader impact of Halo will be, particularly on sales of the Xbox 360. Kim said he has talked with retailers, some of whom expect 30 percent of early Halo 3 purchasers to also take home an Xbox 360.

"We're pretty convinced that a lot of Xbox 360s are going to get sold along with copies of Halo 3," Kim said.

Wedbush Morgan predicts that, spurred by Halo, Microsoft might sell 400,000 consoles for September, the most it would have sold in any non-holiday month since its launch.

Microsoft, already outpacing Sony's PlayStation 3, hopes it can declare victory over its archrival after this holiday season. "We have a great opportunity to push them to the brink in terms of finishing behind us in this generation," Kim said.

This holiday season is seen as a critical one, with Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all at full production.

The wild card has been the success of Nintendo's Wii, which has been outselling both rivals by a considerable margin in recent months.

Kim acknowledges Microsoft needs to become better at attracting the casual gamers who have been drawn to the Wii with its easy-to-pick-up games and intuitive motion-sensitive controller.

"We have to compete for that customer," Kim said. "There's no question about it."

While Kim didn't offer any specific plans, he said that the company doesn't plan to wait to lure some of those casual gamers over to Xbox. "That's a 'this generation' thing and not a 'next-generation' thing."

The release of Halo 3 will be a key test, though, for just how much confidence Microsoft has managed to restore with its warranty extension.

Kim said Microsoft hopes its problems are behind it.

"From everything we can tell we have been able to remove a lot of concerns and doubts in people's minds," he said.

"Halo is one of those 'sure thing' releases for the industry."
--Anita Frazier, analyst, NPD Group

Some consumers are still griping, however. One reader recently wrote in to CNET earlier this month, upset that Microsoft said his Xbox's hardware problems were not covered by its warranty extension program.

Even with Halo 3's release imminent, he said, "I am seriously considering tossing this and the games and going with a different console."

Alyson Craghead, part of a group of female professional gamers known as the Frag Dolls and a Halo expert, can't wait to get her hands on Halo 3.

She took part in the beta test earlier this year. "I'm curious to see how the story ends," Craghead said. "Bungie (the Microsoft game studio behind Halo) is just so good at telling the story."

Craghead was a diehard Quake player until a friend convinced her to give Halo a try four years ago. For a while last year she was working eight hours, playing Halo 2 for eight hours and then sleeping.

She really liked the ability to play the game with others over the Internet through Xbox Live, but grew somewhat frustrated with the level of cheating. "Over the past six months to a year, there have been so many cheaters and modders," Craghead said. "It's not as fun as it was right off."

Craghead's professional game playing duties (spending 40 to 60 hours a week playing Rainbow Six Vegas) have also cut into her Halo time, but she plans to reconnect with Master Chief once the new Halo debuts.

CONTINUED: Expanding the Halo franchise…
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Got my copy reserved :)
I think that H3 is going to truly be one of the last nails in Sony's 'botched release of the PS3' coffin.

I'm no fanboy of either company, but Halo has a much larger following than anything Sony has got on its roster right now. I thought Gran Turismo 4 would have been out by now, but it got scrapped and put back on the drawing board.

My PS2 is still going strong, but I think it's going to be my last Sony console. PSOne got its did the PS2, but the PS3 is just a slug.

The funny thing is that I used to bag on people who had Xbox when I was into Playstation how the tables have turned.
Posted by close5828 (230 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gran Turismo 4 released last year...
My what a mixed up view of things you have. The only thing that slows Sony down right now is the price. That's it. It's not lack of games, or lack of whatever, it's the price. $500 is too much right now.

On the other hand, come next year, Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out, likely the PS3 will be cheaper by then. If you think Halo was a hit, it doesn't compare with the numbers for metal gear. MGS4 is also the end of a saga, Snake and Liquid will finish it off, and the story line is way more timely as usual.

And besides which, MS should be looking to Nintendo, because they have them absolutely beat. The reason MS keeps talking about Sony is because they don't want to talk about how a lesser powered system with a gimicky controller is handing them their ass.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Link Flag
Its already released...
Its been on Bitorrent for a while now...
Posted by richto (895 comments )
Link Flag
OMFG!!! It's bout time!
I'm nearly tearing the flesh off my bones in anticipation to this games release date (please excuse the pretty picture). I've had my copy reserved since May 07!! This game and other games like: Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Splinter Cell Conviction, ect. will raise the bar over and over! 08 is looking to be a very promising year for 360 gamers. See you in multiplayer.
Posted by equivacol (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS can keep it!!
I loved halo 1 but they pissed me off when the wouldn't release #2 to anything other then Vista for the PC.(I already bought XP)
So they want you to buy vista to play 2 and now buy a console to play 3
Considering the hardware problems with the Xbox360 and the fact that the PS3 hardware spec smokes it - just ain't happening.
With the ultimate price of this game MS can keep it!!
Posted by mssoot (169 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry, don't agree
I will have to respectfully disagree with your opinion for a few reasons: Halo started off as a console game. Only because of its success did they port it over to the PC. There are many games that have not been ported from PC to console and vice-versa, so your opinion seems a little skewed in favor of PC gaming. Also the 360 has not been the only system that has experienced hardware failures due to less-than-quality components. If you can rewind the clock back to when the Sony Playstation made its debut, that console had a plethora of customers who have had hardware failures, myself being one of them. What would happen is I would place a CD into the system and experience freezing, skipping and overheating. The only way I could get my system to work properly was to put the game in and turn the system upside-down. Unfortunately for Sony, they didn't offer the extended warranty for system failures that Microsoft currently does. That left a bad taste in a lot of gamers' mouths, but yet people stuck with Sony because of name recognition and the huge number of games that were available. So keeping with precedent, Microsoft has the same issue going on here, except, they ponied up the money to correct the error. With your opinion that the PS3's hardware smokes the 360, no one doubts that fact, but here's another history lesson; Sega Master System (Mark III, depending on your region) had better hardware than the Nintendo Entertainment System (Famicom, again, depending on your region), but I digress, as the Master System did not have the 3rd party support that the NES had. But more recently, if you take a look at the Sega Dreamcast vs. the PS2, the hardware was superior to the PS2, online enabled and also offered good titles with decent 3rd party support, but clearly the PS2 was the victor, even with inferior hardware. Why? Name recognition, and the fact that the PS2 saturated the market with quantity, not quality titles, and also offered backward compatibility. So bringing this opinion up to current, I feel that both consoles have something unique to offer consumers from the casual to the hardcore, but to confine your displeasure with Microsoft's system to no PC porting of Halo 3 and hardware alone, is a bit shallow. As of today's date, 360 still has more to offer a casual and even a hardcore gamer, despite PS3s superior hardware and previous successes.
Posted by Darkchylde22 (2 comments )
Link Flag
In Search of
I wish that show (In Search of) was still on TV so then we could find this hidden power of the PS3. Maybe it's hiding out with Bigfoot or the Lochness Monster. So far it's shown us the power to run madden @ 30 fps and delay GTA4. I tell you one thing that Sony got right and thats the name of the CPU. The Cell. So many games are literally locked in the CELL. Delayed. GTA 4 has had it's paroled pushed backed to spring of 2008. If you think the PS3 hardware smokes the 360 then you need to think again. The only thing the PS3 is smoking is the chance that there will ever be a PS4. You can BASH MSFT about a lot of things but the XBOX isn't one of them. After partnering with SEGA they have taken what they have learned and have established themselves in the console market. The 360 hardware heat issues aside is best game hardware design on the Market right now. It has the best development environment and the best online experience. The 360 is a game machine. The PS3 is JACK OF ALL TRADES & MASTER OF None. It's a (Blu-Ray)BD movie player but of course not the best one currently. You can run Linux on it and use it a PC. Of course not a very good Linux PC. I hear in the near future it will be a DVR but you can bet it will be a far cry from tivo. Right now the PS3 excels at nothing but being expensive. Sony was more concerned with launching a new movie format and took the gaming market for granted. The PS3 hardware is clearly a compromise between media streaming and gaming and gaming code has taken a backseat to movie watching.
Posted by Captain-Atari (80 comments )
Link Flag
Halo=great game on terrible hardware
I'm one of many 360 owners whose unit died via the Red Rings of
Death, and I do have a copy of Halo 3 pre-ordered...BUT rather
than worry about when my refub 360 will die on me while playing
Halo3, I simply sold it to my local Gamespot. I can wait until
Christmas time or afterwards to buy a PS3, I'll never trust any M$
product or service again! And sadly that includes Halo 3.
Posted by Amuro Rey (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The PS3 has had problems as well
You are not going to be getting much more reliable if you move to the PS3, Sony fanboy! The PS3 has had JUST AS MANY PROBLEMS as the XBox360, you just don't hear about them as much because everyone is 'bash on Microsoft, the EEEEEVVVVVVIIIIIILLLLLLL!'
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
Link Flag
But the PS3 has no games and inferior graphics.
But the PS3 has no games and inferior graphics!

So you pay twice the price for fewer, inferior games and get a free Betamax V2 BluRay Player - what a bargain. Not.
Posted by richto (895 comments )
Link Flag
I know what happens at the end of Halo 3..
Master Chief dies, and so does your XBox
Posted by niceyuk (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mine works just fine
Both my friend and I bought ours just under a year ago... no
problems. :)

While you relish in your ambivilance between the PS3 and the 360,
I'll be playing Halo 3 next Tuesday :-)

(Written on a Macbook)
Posted by close5828 (230 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Im having a heavy debate with myself over whether I should buy one of these (from a brick and mortar store) or if I should have a custom built windows machine of the same price (complete with "I'll smack your face if it breaks" warranty).

I need something to look up my Halo 3 stats on the go. ;)
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Games for Windows release?
Give gamers a real reason to "upgrade" to Vista. Releasing Halo 2 as brand new and as a Vista-only release is a slap in the face and testifies to how far behind Microsoft is for supporting gaming on their own platform. Perhaps the framerates on Bungee's games are much lower on Vista vs. XP, like most other first person shooters available.
Posted by yngcountre (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Halo PC and Halo 2 PC were an AFTERTHOUGHT.
They were release only because they had enough popularity to warrant a port.
When it comes to Halo 2 and Halo PC, the low framerates were due to a horrible port, and not so much vista.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
I might get Halo 3
If they release Halo 2 and Halo 3 for Windows XP. I'm not buying Vista yet for any reason. Not until they figure all the driver and compatibility issues out. I won't play Halo part anything 1, 2 or 3 on an Xbox or Xbox 360 anymore because the control system stinks for a lefty. I get killed so much playing with a controller compared to a keyboard and mouse. The way they mapped the looking and moving on the thumbsticks is too confusing for me. Why couldn't they let you customize the controls like so many other games do? I do love the way Bungie made the aliens and the voice acting is better than your average shooter.
Posted by darthduke (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd Love To Get This Game ...
... but my 360 died the red ring of death last week and I'm out of
commission during what is arguably the biggest game launch ever,
not just for the 360.

Hopefully I'll have a working 360 by November.
Posted by Hardrada (359 comments )
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